The Nissan Armada is a big, powerful, people-moving machine with the capability of the storied Patrol and the modern conveniences consumers expect today. The redesign for the big SUV meant a year off the market for the Armada, but we think it was worth the wait.

We first drove the big Armada in this new rendition back in August of last year and were impressed by its hulky good looks. The Armada is now based on the Patrol rather than the Titan pickup, further aiding (and, we found, adding to) its off-road credibility. It's not the perfect SUV for every buyer in this segment, but it's the perfect SUV for some. If spaciousness and muscle are your primary concerns, the Armada's got you covered.

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Nearly everything about the 2017 Armada is new compared to the 2015 model it replaces – the SUV took a hiatus for 2016. From the ground up, this is a new three-row sport utility, but all the good elements of the previous-generation Armada are still there: people hauling, trailer towing, and capability. Now, though, the only thing the 2017 Nissan Armada shares with the Titan pickup is the V8 engine and transmission that powers it. Everything else is from the global Patrol platform. Much to the Armada's gain.

One key change to the 2017 Armada is in its powerplant. The new 5.6-liter V8 has several upgrades to make it very different from the previous generation of the engine. A new cylinder coating reduces friction loss while variable valve event and lift changes timing to make it more controllable and dynamic. The VVEL coincides with a new direct injection system to improve fuel economy as well. This means that the big V8 outputs 390 horsepower (291 kW) and 394 pound-feet (534 Nm) of torque. The torque curve on this big engine is relatively flat, offering a long space of high delivery for a couple of thousand RPM centered on the 4,500 mark.

Coupled to that engine is a new seven-speed automatic that focuses its first two gears on maximum torque improvement and the rest on keeping power constant. First, second and third gears are roughly one point apart, starting at 4.887 for first, 3.170 for second, and 2.027 for third. The final gear (seven) is at 0.775 for low-impact highway driving. This is a smooth transmission on the road and a very power-centric trans when four-wheel drive is engaged. Four-wheel drive is optional in the Armada. Those low gears also aid the 2017 Nissan Armada's impressive tow rating of up to 8,500 lb (3,855 kg).

All of that muscle comes at a price, however, and that price is fuel economy. Even against other mammoth SUVs like the Ford Expedition or the Chevrolet Tahoe, the Armada's MPG returns are disappointing. In its two-wheel drive (rear-wheel drive) option, the 2017 Armada returns 16 mpg (14.7 l/100km) combined. In four-wheel drive, that number slides to 15 mpg (15.7 l/100km) combined, with 13 mpg (18.1 l/100km) in the city and 18 mpg (13.1 l/100km) on the highway. In the real world, we saw even lower than that, with economy being closer to 13.5 mpg (17.4 l/100km) overall.

Where the 2017 Nissan Armada really shines is in its interior. Even the base-level Armada is very well-equipped with an interior made up of quality materials and good workmanship. Acoustic glass is standard for the windshield, driver's and front passenger's windows, greatly reducing wind noise in the SUV. The interior of the Armada is, not surprisingly, very similar to that of its luxury variant, the Infiniti QX80. Most differences are in materials choices (though the high-end Armada Platinum is virtually identical to the QX80) and adjustment options.

Infotainment is another consideration in today's market and the Armada delivers there as well. Nissan's latest system is available in the Armada, to include 360-degree AroundView rearview and parking cameras, as well as advanced safety equipment such as blind-spot monitoring and automated forward emergency braking. An 8-inch touchscreen and navigation are standard in the Armada, and some packages add a rear seat entertainment system with two 7-inch monitors.

We found that the seats in the Armada, though not as excellent as those in the high-end QX80, are very comfortable in their own right and come with plenty of adjustment. The second row is similar, with a lot of room in all directions, even with three passengers lined along the bench option. The third row is mostly for children, though, with a low cushion height and short seatbacks. Those shopping for a true three-row SUV might need to look somewhere else if that row will house anyone over four feet tall.

Cargo space is also more limited in the big 2017 Armada than in some competitors, but we think most will find it more useful than the written numbers might suggest. There is 16.5 cubic feet (467 liters) of space behind the third row and, when that's folded, 49.9 cf (1,413 liters) become available. Folding both rows down yields 95.4 cubic feet (2,701 liters). That's a lot of usable space, but is only about average for the segment. On a high note, though, the Armada's loading deck is lower than most everyone else in this segment, making getting things in and out of it easier.

Another difference for the 2017 Nissan Armada is in its ride quality and road presence. Unlike SUVs of old, where clanky, bouncy rides were the norm, the truckishness of the Armada is nearly gone, having been replaced with a more modern chassis that can handle a smooth, quiet ride on the highway as well as a jangling off-pavement excursion. It's not quite as smooth as a crossover, but the Armada's ride quality blurs the line between crossover and SUV a lot.

Off the pavement, the 2017 Armada is a strong goer with a lot of powerful capability. Ground clearance might seem like an issue, but the Armada's large wheels and protected undercarriage give it more capability than mere measurements of ground clearance might otherwise indicate. We took it offroad at the unveiling event last year and then put it through more paces in Wyoming during our week with a press loan Armada. Others in this class, especially those with longer wheelbases, might be hard put to keep up with the Armada. When you combine the people hauling capabilities of the 2017 Armada with its towing capacity, you have some real "get out there and do stuff" options.

In all, we think that this new Patrol-based Armada is a much more competitive full-sized SUV. It has a lot going for it and is a near-perfect match for families that need an occasional third row of seating, a lot of cargo capacity and trailering capability.

The 2017 Nissan Armada is in showrooms now, starting at US$44,900 plus delivery.

Product Page: 2017 Nissan Armada

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